Chapter 31.2: Truth

Li Baolin turned around and was frightened by the huge entourage. She immediately kneeled. “Y-your Concubine thought that they were noisy and wanted to chase them away…”

The Emperor bellowed, “Are you going to chase anybody that is noisy out of the palace? These white magpies are a rare auspicious sign. The Empress just got better and you are not happy that is why you wanted to get rid of them? To ruin an auspicious sign is to curse Great Tang. You are vicious and deserve to be punished! Men!”

“Your Majesty, please allow me to speak.” Fu Rou walked up and kneeled in front of the Emperor and Empress. Fu Rou had visited Li Baolin to chat and the white magpies were making too much noise. Li Baolin then thought to chase them away.

“Head Seamstress Fu, I know that the Empress has always doted on you. Are you going to plead for someone that destroys an auspicious sign and curses our Great Tang?”

“I do not dare. I simply think that the auspicious sign is not very significant and there is no need for Your Majesty to get angry over this.”

“What did you say?” The Emperor’s tone immediately turned sour. “The auspicious sign is not significant?”

“Head Seamstress Fu, I know that Li Baolin used to be the head seamstress of the Seamstress Department and you both have a good relationship. However, you should not interfere with the matter today. Please step down.” Empress Zhangsun was afraid that Fu Rou would be implicated.

“If I may be so bold as to ask, why have all Emperors been so concerned about auspicious signs? It is not just because they are rare, right?” Fu Rou knew that as soon as she backed down, Li Baolin’s life would be at stake.

The Emperor replied, “An auspicious sign signals that the heavens are pleased with how the Emperor is ruling. It also signifies that the world is peaceful and the citizens are happy. That is why it is precious.”

“It also means that the citizens are well to do and the oceans are peaceful. So even if there isn’t an auspicious sign, it would not affect Your Majesty’s ability to become an enlightened ruler like Emperor Yaoshun. On the contrary, if a rare auspicious sign were to appear but the citizens are suffering from cold and the harshness of life, the auspicious sign would not be able to protect the ruler from negative criticism. During the Wei period of the Northern Dynasty, they found two massive trees growing together as one. The tree even had a pair of unique looking snow-white pheasants. At that time, the people thought that it was a huge auspicious sign. However, thereafter the world was at unrest and people were starving. The officials then burned the tree and cooked the pheasants to eat. Your Majesty, can this tree and the snow-white pheasant then be seen as a symbol of prosperity?”

The Emperor calmed down as his expression softened. “I didn’t know that as a seamstress, you would be so well-read.”

“Reading is to understand logic. I am simply an insignificant female official but I also wish to do my duty as a subordinate. I do not wish for Your Majesty to harshly punish Li Baolin in a rage and spoil your reputation. Li Baolin has indeed been careless and rash to chase away the white magpies, but she does not have any other intentions. Her actions must definitely not be linked to a huge crime such as cursing Great Tang. A wealthy nation and satisfied citizens are the true auspicious signs, not two small white magpies. The talent that Your Majesty desires is the auspicious sign that Your Majesty needs.”

“The white magpies are not an auspicious sign. The talent that I desire is the auspicious sign I need.” The Emperor repeated her words before smiling. “Li Baolin has indeed been careless. Reduce Li Baolin’s allowance by half for three months.”

Li Baolin felt a weight lift off her. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

The Emperor then continued, “Head Seamstress Fu, you are well-read. It is a pity you are in the Seamstress Department.”

Empress Zhangsun added, “Your Majesty really said exactly what I feel. Head Seamstress Fu speaks well and loves to read. I have always wanted her to serve in Lizheng Palace. I am only worried that everyone will be sad to part with her talent in embroidery. My various sisters in the other palaces will not want me to take her away.”

“If you want a female official, who dares to say no? If anyone objects, tell them to come and speak to me. Head Seamstress Fu, from today onwards, you are no longer a seamstress. Go to Lizheng Palace. You can be…” The Emperor looked to the Empress for what she wanted.

“You can be my Siyan [1]. What does your Majesty think?” Empress Zhangsun’s virtuousness was not just a rumour. 

The Emperor looked at Fu Rou. “From now on, you shall be Fu Siyan. This position is not a small matter. You will have to stay by the Empress’ side to help submit and announce Imperial Decrees. Fu Siyan, you have to work with caution.”

Fu Rou gracefully accepted the position. She was surprised. She had thought that her bold actions would cause her to be reprimanded. Everyone said that the palace was scary so they refrain from speaking the truth. The palace hence turned into “Deep Palace”. However, the Emperor is wise. As long as one speaks logically, there would be light.

 

The Crown Prince returned to the Eastern Palace and saw Prince Han waiting for him. Prince Han was reading a book, looking plump and simple like he had always been. The Crown Prince did not seem to detect the joy in his brother’s eyes and asked monotonously why Prince Han had come.

Prince Han did not sense the difference in his brother’s expression. “Did you forget that you scheduled a hunt with me today? I didn’t see you so I came over to see what was going on.”

“Oh, it is my fault. People from Da An Palace came to say that the Grand Emperor has fallen sick, so I rushed over to attend to him and forgot about our meeting.”

“The Grand Emperor is sick? Is it serious?” Prince Han was slightly scared of the Grand Emperor. If the Grand Emperor did not summon him, he would not dare to go over. 

The Crown Prince looked at his brother and thought of how the Grand Emperor mentioned Prince Han’s Literature School when he was lying in bed today. Back then, when his Imperial Father was still Prince Qin, he set up Tiance Mansion. They used different methods to achieve the same results of recruiting talent. Previously, Lu Yunji had warned him, now with the Grand Emperor saying the same thing, he could not help but be concerned.

The Crown Prince brushed him off. “He has caught a slight cold. The Imperial Physician has seen him and prescribed medicine. He had taken the medicine and gone to sleep. The Grand Emperor is old and doesn't have as much energy. His mind is unclear and said a few nonsensical things.”

Prince Han finally understood. “It is good that there is nothing serious. Let’s go and hunt.”

“Let’s not hunt, I am tired.”

“That is true. You just took care of the Grand Emperor. How about we drink and chat?”

“Today, I…”

“Come on, Crown Prince. We haven’t drank and talked for a while now. I have a bunch of things I want to tell you.” Prince Han pulled on him enthusiastically.

The Crown Prince could not argue over him and could only give in.

As they drank, Prince Han kept talking about his Literature School. Just as the Crown Prince was getting irritated, Shuangxi brought lotus seed soup over. The Crown Prince immediately flipped and sent both Shuangxi and the lotus seed soup away.

“Crown Prince, are you still…” Prince Han could tell that something was wrong.

“Don’t mention her.” The Crown Prince was frustrated.

“Even if others don’t want to speak about it, I cannot do the same. I don’t wish to hide from you but even Imperial Mother has noticed the indifference in the Eastern Palace. Imperial Mother even called me over to Lizheng Palace and asked me to persuade you. I was thinking that as a younger brother, it is not my place to talk about your relationship with the Crown Princess. However, after I thought about it, you are my dear brother and if I don’t say it, who else will? Therefore, I am going to be thick-skinned and say it.”

As the Crown Prince heard him say “dear brother”, his heart softened. “Say what you want to say.”

“It is normal for couples to fight. Look at me and Consort Han! We quarrel all the time too. In the beginning, there are a lot of disagreements. But as you quarrel, you get used to each other. Consort Han’s temper is also becoming docile.”

Prince Han spoke humorously and the Crown Prince smiled. 

“Consort Han is becoming docile? I think you are the one becoming docile.”

“Crown Prince, you don’t understand women. To outsiders, you must give her face. However, once you are home, she will be as obedient as a cat. Consort Han is even trying to learn to cook and even made several dishes for me.”

“Like that bowl of extremely salty chicken soup?” Anyone with eyes could see that she was really trying hard.

“Mmhm...actually chicken soup is nicer when it is salty. I got used to it the more I drank it.”

The Crown Prince and Prince Han both smiled.

“Crown Prince, you really shouldn’t quarrel with the Crown Princess anymore. No matter how wrong she is, she will still be the mother of your children. If you neglect her, the entire Eastern Palace will be affected. You have to support, give in and forgive each other. You should forgive her.”

“The Crown Princess created quite a bit of trouble for Consort Han. I never thought that you would speak up for her.” There were a lot of things that the Crown Prince knew.

“We are a family. The Crown Princess is my sister-in-law. We can’t hate our own sister-in-law right?”

The Crown Prince sighed softly, “If only she was as magnanimous as you all.”

As they spoke about their daily life, the Crown Prince shifted from not speaking his mind to telling the truth. The crack in their relationship seemed to mend itself.


1. Person in charge of announcing Imperial decrees and orders

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